J.J. Abrams and company scored a major “get” last spring when they cast sci-fi legend Leonard Nimoy as William Bell, the head of Fringe’s mysterious Massive Dynamic corporation. It wasn’t terribly surprising, since the veteran actor had already reprised his iconic role as Spock (or “Spock Prime,” if you must) in Abrams’ Star Trek relaunch. Still, the show combined Nimoy’s name value with a major reveal in Fringe’s overall story arc and a stunning visual as Bell’s parallel-world offices were revealed to be based in the still-standing World Trade Center towers.
Fringe has been keeping those revelations on the – if you’ll forgive me – fringes since the show returned three episodes ago, but in tomorrow night’s “Momentum Deferred,” Bell and Nimoy return and fans can expect to finally get some answers. Coupled, no doubt, with a new dose of questions. This is an Abrams show, after all.
To help get the word out, Nimoy spoke with journalists this afternoon via conference call. We’ll have the full transcript of that interview in the next few days, but in the mean time here are some highlights.
Nimoy first met with J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci three years ago about joining the Trek relaunch. He looked on the opportunity as a “revalidation of the work I had done.”
Nimoy had watched some of Fringe prior to being offered the role of Bell. He didn’t hesitate, since he had already worked with Abrams and the others. “It was the same people, the same attitude, the same creativity.”
What intrigued him most about Bell was that the character was largely a blank slate. He and the producers had several intense discussions about how the character should be developed.
Tomorrow night’s episode will give a sense of what his relationship with Olivia is all about. “We go a long way tomorrow night in finding out what William Bell is all about.” When directly asked whether William Bell is good or evil, Nimoy simply replied, “Time will tell.”
So far the only Fringe regular he has worked with is Anna Torv as Olivia Dunham. He has one more episode he’s shooting in a few weeks, and any further appearances have yet to be confirmed.
The actor joked about his first science fiction role, playing a zombie in 1952’s Zombies of the Stratosphere. “I thought it would rocket me to stardom.” When asked whether science fiction was something he was always a fan of or just a genre he flourished in because of Star Trek, he said that it “seems to be a fertile ground for the type of work I do, for the type of presence I offer.”
Nimoy repeatedly commented on how far science fiction has come from an effects standpoint, but also bemoaned the modern tendency for story to take a back seat to visual spectacle. His three most important elements for good storytelling, science fiction or otherwise, are “story, story, and story.”
He said the ability to realize virtually anything on screen has taken a lot of the burden of exposition off of actors, and allows them to add more nuance and depth to their performance.
He would be open to talking about appearing in the next Trek movie, but “I frankly doubt I will be called upon again.”
While he never expected to be acting this much at this stage in his life, he compared his career to an ocean liner – even once the engines are turned off, the ship’s momentum continues carrying it for some time. He added, “As long as there’s interesting work to do, I’ll probably keep doing it.”